MANCHESTER, England (AP) — After a decade of not winning the English Premier League, Manchester United announced on Sunday It has agreed to sell a minority stake in the famous club to Jim Ratcliffe in a deal that would also see the British billionaire and childhood fan take control of its football operations.
The record 20-time league champion has not won the title since the previous coach Alex Ferguson He retired in 2013, sparking growing anger towards the Glazer family, United's American owners.
This announcement came more than a year after the club was put up for sale.
Ratcliffe, who owns petrochemical giant Ineos and is one of Britain's richest people, has taken a stake of “up to 25%” in United and will invest $300 million in Old Trafford.
United said Ratcliffe will provide $200 million upon completion of the deal and another $100 million by the end of 2024. The total value of the deal is about $1.6 billion, including $300 million in financing.
The deal is subject to the approval of the English Premier League.
United are currently in eighth place in the Premier League and have been so He was eliminated from European competition. Under fire manager Erik ten Hag watched his team Losing 2-0 to West Ham On Saturday, United suffered their 13th defeat in 26 matches in all competitions this season.
Ratcliffe, who was born in Failsworth, Greater Manchester, had originally offered to buy out the entire majority stake of around 69% held by the Glazer family.
Ratcliffe said: “As a local boy and lifelong supporter of the club, I am very pleased that we have been able to agree an agreement with the Manchester United board that delegates to us administrative responsibility for the club’s football operations.”
“Although the club's commercial success has ensured there is always money available to win trophies at the highest level, this potential has not been fully unleashed in recent times. We will bring world-class knowledge, experience and talent from the wider INEOS Sport group to help drive further improvement at the club, With funds also being allocated to enable future investment at Old Trafford.
United said the deal will be financed by Trawlers Limited – a company wholly owned by Ratcliffe – without any debt. United fans criticized the leveraged nature of the Glazers' purchase which led to the club being placed in debt, as well as the perceived lack of investment and profits received by the owners.
The fishing vessels are named after a famous quote from Former United legend Eric Cantona. “When seagulls follow a fishing vessel, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea,” the Frenchman said in a 1995 news conference.
Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer, United's chief executives and co-directors, said in the statement: “Sir Jim and INEOS bring a wealth of commercial experience as well as a significant financial commitment to the club. Through INEOS Sport, Manchester United will have access to experienced, high-performing professionals with Experience creating and leading elite teams both in and out of the game.
“Manchester United have talented people throughout the club and our desire is to always improve at every level to help deliver even greater success for our great fans in the future.”
In November last year, the Glazer family announced plans to seek new investments and instructed the US Renn Commercial Bank to oversee the process, which included the possibility of an outright sale.
Ratcliffe was competing with Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani to buy out the Glazer family, which also owns the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But after months of protracted negotiations, Sheikh Jassim withdrew his offer in October leaving Ratcliffe in a position to take a minority stake in the club.
Sheikh Jassim has always stressed that he is interested in the full takeover.
United said Ratcliffe paid $33 per share.
Uncertainty over ownership led to protests by fans outside the club's Old Trafford stadium, while chants of “Glazer go” were regularly heard during matches.
While Ratcliffe has long been viewed by fans as a popular potential owner, his minority investment means the Glazers remain in place, despite years of fan campaigns to oust them.
The Manchester United Supporters Trust felt that fans would feel “mixed emotions” after Ratcliffe's investment left the Glazers still in charge overall.
“When the so-called strategic review was announced almost a year ago, it finally seemed that a sale of the club was on the horizon, potentially bringing the fresh investment and new direction the club clearly needed,” Most said in a statement.
“Against this background, fans have very mixed feelings today. We welcome the investment made by his childhood Reds player, Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his company INEOS, but many wish his ownership stake was greater than the 25% initially reported. We note the statements that It says that he and his team will control the sporting activities, but we wonder how any organization can put its core business in the hands of a minority shareholder, and how this is done meaningfully in practice.
Most added: “Today could be a step forward for Manchester United after very difficult years.”
The late businessman Malcolm Glazer bought United in 2005 for £790 million (then about $1.4 billion) amid a backlash from supporters.
“The shared ambition is to create a world-class football operation that builds on the club’s many existing strengths, including the successful off-field performances it continues to enjoy,” United said on Sunday.
Initially, Ratcliffe's company INEOS said it was aiming for a “modern, progressive, fan-centric ownership approach”.
She also said she was focused on United winning the Champions League for the first time since 2008 and making them “the number one club in the world again.”
Ratcliffe is said to be worth $15.1 billion and tried to buy Chelsea FC, which plays in the English Premier League, last year.
He already owns French club Nice, the Ineos cycling team, is a third shareholder in the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 team and competes in the America's Cup with the Ineos Britannia sailing team.
Ineos' responsibility for managing the club's football operations is set to include “all aspects” of the men's and women's teams as well as the academies.
We will have to see how Ratcliffe and Ineos will be able to implement these steps on a day-to-day basis.
United's statement indicated that the deal is still “subject to customary regulatory approvals” which is expected to take some time. The process must be ratified by the Premier League and also an official announcement via the New York Stock Exchange.
There have been suggestions that it could take up to six weeks for the changes in ownership of the club to be determined with all relevant parties.
A bad time?
Gary Neville, former United captain, attacked the timing of the announcement, which came at 4pm local time on Christmas Eve.
“Manchester United 2023 was a disgrace until the end,” the football expert wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “The timing of this is truly terrible and no working organization could have thought of this.”
“Anyway, all the best to Jim Ratcliffe and I hope he can somehow find a way to get the club back on track again and get back to being something respectable on and off the field,” Neville added.
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